PUBLISHED IN 1781.
Now first translated into English.
This play is to be regarded merely as a dramatic narrative in which, for the purpose of tracing out the innermost workings of the soul, advantage has been taken of the dramatic method, without otherwise conforming to the stringent rules of theatrical composition, or seeking the dubious advantage of stage adaptation. It must be admitted as somewhat inconsistent that three very remarkable people, whose acts are dependent on perhaps a thousand contingencies, should be completely developed within three hours, considering that it would scarcely be possible, in the ordinary course of events, that three such remarkable people should, even in twenty-four hours, fully reveal their characters to the most penetrating inquirer. A greater amount of incident is here crowded together than it was possible for me to confine within the narrow limits prescribed by Aristotle and Batteux.
It is, however, not so much the bulk of my play as its contents which banish it from the stage. Its scheme and economy require that several characters should appear who would offend the finer feelings of virtue and shock the delicacy of our manners. Every delineator of human character is placed in the same dilemma if he proposes to give a faithful picture of the world as it really is, and not an ideal phantasy, a mere creation of his own. It is the course of mortal things that the good should be shadowed by the bad, and virtue shine the brightest when contrasted with vice. Whoever proposes to discourage vice and to vindicate religion, morality, and social order against their enemies, must unveil crime in all its deformity, and place it before the eyes of men in its colossal magnitude; he must diligently explore its dark mazes, and make himself familiar with sentiments at the wickedness of which his soul revolts.
Vice is here exposed in its innermost workings. In Francis it resolves all the confused terrors of conscience into wild abstractions, destroys virtuous sentiments by dissecting them, and holds up the earnest voice of religion to mockery and scorn. He who has gone so far (a distinction by no means enviable) as to quicken his understanding at the expense of his soul – to him the holiest things are no longer holy; to him God and man are alike indifferent, and both worlds are as nothing. Of such a monster I have endeavored to sketch a striking and lifelike portrait, to hold up to abhorrence all the machinery of his scheme of vice, and to test its strength by contrasting it with truth. How far my narrative is successful in accomplishing these objects the reader is left to judge. My conviction is that I have painted nature to the life.
Next to this man (Francis) stands another who would perhaps puzzle not a few of my readers. A mind for which the greatest crimes have only charms through the glory which attaches to them, the energy which their perpetration requires, and the dangers which attend them. A remarkable and important personage, abundantly endowed with the power of becoming either a Brutus or a Catiline, according as that power is directed. An unhappy conjunction of circumstances determines him to choose the latter for, his example, and it is only after a fearful straying that he is recalled to emulate the former. Erroneous notions of activity and power, an exuberance of strength which bursts through all the barriers of law, must of necessity conflict with the rules of social life. To these enthusiast dreams of greatness and efficiency it needed but a sarcastic bitterness against the unpoetic spirit of the age to complete the strange Don Quixote whom, in the Robber Moor, we at once detest and love, admire and pity. It is, I hope, unnecessary to remark that I no more hold up this picture as a warning exclusively to robbers than the greatest Spanish satire was levelled exclusively at knight-errants.
It is nowadays so much the fashion to be witty at the expense of religion that a man will hardly pass for a genius if he does not allow his impious satire to run a tilt at its most sacred truths. The noble simplicity of holy writ must needs be abused and turned into ridicule at the daily assemblies of the so-called wits; for what is there so holy and serious that will not raise a laugh if a false sense be attached to it? Let me hope that I shall have rendered no inconsiderable service to the cause of true religion and morality in holding up these wanton misbelievers to the detestation of society, under the form of the most despicable robbers.
But still more. I have made these said immoral characters to stand out favorably in particular points, and even in some measure to compensate by qualities of the head for what they are deficient in those of the heart. Herein I have done no more than literally copy nature. Every man, even the most depraved, bears in some degree the impress of the Almighty's image, and perhaps the greatest villain is not farther removed from the most upright man than the petty offender; for the moral forces keep even pace with the powers of the mind, and the greater the capacity bestowed on man, the greater and more enormous becomes his misapplication of it; the more responsible is he for his errors.
The "Adramelech" of Klopstock (in his Messiah) awakens in us a feeling in which admiration is blended with detestation. We follow Milton's Satan with shuddering wonder through the pathless realms of chaos. The Medea of the old dramatists is, in spite of all her crimes, a great and wondrous woman, and Shakespeare's Richard III. is sure to excite the admiration of the reader, much as he would hate the reality. If it is to be my task to portray men as they are, I must at the same time include their good qualities, of which even the most vicious are never totally destitute. If I would warn mankind against the tiger, I must not omit to describe his glossy, beautifully-marked skin, lest, owing to this omission, the ferocious animal should not be recognized till too late. Besides this, a man who is so utterly depraved as to be without a single redeeming point is no meet subject for art, and would disgust rather than excite the interest of the reader; who would turn over with impatience the pages which concern him. A noble soul can no more endure a succession of moral discords than the musical ear the grating of knives upon glass.
And for this reason I should have been ill-advised in attempting to bring my drama on the stage. A certain strength of mind is required both on the part of the poet and the reader; in the former that he may not disguise vice, in the latter that he may not suffer brilliant qualities to beguile him into admiration of what is essentially detestable. Whether the author has fulfilled his duty he leaves others to judge, that his readers will perform theirs he by no means feels assured. The vulgar – among whom I would not be understood to mean merely the rabble – the vulgar I say (between ourselves) extend their influence far around, and unfortunately – set the fashion. Too shortsighted to reach my full meaning, too narrow-minded to comprehend the largeness of my views, too disingenuous to admit my moral aim – they will, I fear, almost frustrate my good intentions, and pretend to discover in my work an apology for the very vice which it has been my object to condemn, and will perhaps make the poor poet, to whom anything rather than justice is usually accorded, responsible for his simplicity.
Thus we have a Da capo of the old story of Democritus and the Abderitans, and our worthy Hippocrates would needs exhaust whole plantations of hellebore, were it proposed to remedy this mischief by a healing decoction.
[This alludes to the fable amusingly recorded by Wieland in his Geschichte der Abderiten. The Abderitans, who were a byword among the ancients for their extreme simplicity, are said to have sent express for Hipocrates to cure their great townsman Democritus, whom they believed to be out of his senses, because his sayings were beyond their comprehension. Hippocrates, on conversing with Democritus, having at once discovered that the cause lay with themselves, assembled the senate and principal inhabitants in the market-place with the promise of instructing them in the cure of Democritus. He then banteringly advised them to import six shiploads of hellebore of the very best quality, and on its arrival to distribute it among the citizens, at least seven pounds per head, but to the senators double that quantity, as they were bound to have an extra supply of sense. By the time these worthies discovered that they had been laughed at, Hippocrates was out of their reach. The story in Wieland is infinitely more amusing than this short quotation from memory enables me to show. H. G. B.]
Let as many friends of truth as you will, instruct their fellow-citizens in the pulpit and on the stage, the vulgar will never cease to be vulgar, though the sun and moon may change their course, and "heaven and earth wax old as a garment." Perhaps, in order to please tender-hearted people, I might have been less true to nature; but if a certain beetle, of whom we have all heard, could extract filth even from pearls, if we have examples that fire has destroyed and water deluged, shall therefore pearls, fire, and water be condemned. In consequence of the remarkable catastrophe which ends my play, I may justly claim for it a place among books of morality, for crime meets at last with the punishment it deserves; the lost one enters again within the pale of the law, and virtue is triumphant. Whoever will but be courteous enough towards me to read my work through with a desire to understand it, from him I may expect – not that he will admire the poet, but that he will esteem the honest man.
EASTER FAIR, 1781.
AS COMMUNICATED BY SCHILLER TO DALBERG IN 1781, AND SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN USED AS A PROLOGUE.
– This has never before been printed with any of the editions. —
The picture of a great, misguided soul, endowed with every gift of excellence; yet lost in spite of all its gifts! Unbridled passions and bad companionship corrupt his heart, urge him on from crime to crime, until at last he stands at the head of a band of murderers, heaps horror upon horror, and plunges from precipice to precipice into the lowest depths of despair. Great and majestic in misfortune, by misfortune reclaimed, and led back to the paths of virtue. Such a man shall you pity and hate, abhor yet love, in the Robber Moor. You will likewise see a juggling, fiendish knave unmasked and blown to atoms in his own mines; a fond, weak, and over-indulgent father; the sorrows of too enthusiastic love, and the tortures of ungoverned passion. Here, too, you will witness, not without a shudder, the interior economy of vice; and from the stage be taught how all the tinsel of fortune fails to smother the inward worm; and how terror, anguish, remorse, and despair tread close on the footsteps of guilt. Let the spectator weep to-day at our exhibition, and tremble, and learn to bend his passions to the laws of religion and reason; let the youth behold with alarm the consequences of unbridled excess; nor let the man depart without imbibing the lesson that the invisible hand of Providence makes even villains the instruments of its designs and judgments, and can marvellously unravel the most intricate perplexities of fate.
The eight hundred copies of the first edition of my ROBBERS were exhausted before all the admirers of the piece were supplied. A second was therefore undertaken, which has been improved by greater care in printing, and by the omission of those equivocal sentences which were offensive to the more fastidious part of the public. Such an alteration, however, in the construction of the play as should satisfy all the wishes of my friends and critics has not been my object.
In this second edition the several songs have been arranged for the pianoforte, which will enhance its value to the musical part of the public. I am indebted for this to an able composer,* who has performed his task in so masterly a manner that the hearer is not unlikely to forget the poet in the melody of the musician.
STUTTGART, Jan. 5, 1782.
* Alluding to his friend Zumsteeg. – ED.
"Quae medicamenta non sanant, ferrum sanat; quae ferrum non sanat, ignis sanat."– HIPPOCRATES.
MAXIMILIAN, COUNT VON MOOR.
FRANCIS,| his Sons.
AMELIA VON EDELREICH, his Niece.
RAZMANN, | Libertines, afterwards Banditti
HERMANN, the natural son of a Nobleman.
DANIEL, an old Servant of Count von Moor.
FATHER DOMINIC, a Monk.
BAND OF ROBBERS, SERVANTS, ETC.
The scene is laid in Germany. Period of action about two years.
Apartment in the Castle of COUNT MOOR.
FRANCIS, OLD MOOR.
FRANCIS. But are you really well, father? You look so pale.
OLD MOOR. Quite well, my son – what have you to tell me?
FRANCIS. The post is arrived – a letter from our correspondent at Leipsic.
OLD M. (eagerly). Any tidings of my son Charles?
FRANCIS. Hem! Hem! – Why, yes. But I fear – I know not – whether I dare – your health. – Are you really quite well, father?
OLD M. As a fish in water.* Does he write of my son? What means this anxiety about my health? You have asked me that question twice.
[*This is equivalent to our English saying "As sound as a roach."]
FRANCIS. If you are unwell – or are the least apprehensive of being so – permit me to defer – I will speak to you at a fitter season. – (Half aside.) These are no tidings for a feeble frame.
OLD M. Gracious Heavens? what am I doomed to hear?
FRANCIS. First let me retire and shed a tear of compassion for my lost brother. Would that my lips might be forever sealed – for he is your son! Would that I could throw an eternal veil over his shame – for he is my brother! But to obey you is my first, though painful, duty – forgive me, therefore.
OLD M. Oh, Charles! Charles! Didst thou but know what thorns thou plantest in thy father's bosom! That one gladdening report of thee would add ten years to my life! yes, bring back my youth! whilst now, alas, each fresh intelligence but hurries me a step nearer to the grave!
FRANCIS. Is it so, old man, then farewell! for even this very day we might all have to tear our hair over your coffin.*
[* This idiom is very common in Germany, and is used to express affliction.]
OLD M. Stay! There remains but one short step more – let him have his will! (He sits down.) The sins of the father shall be visited unto the third and fourth generation – let him fulfil the decree.
FRANCIS (takes the letter out of his pocket). You know our correspondent! See! I would give a finger of my right hand might I pronounce him a liar – a base and slanderous liar! Compose yourself! Forgive me if I do not let you read the letter yourself. You cannot, must not, yet know all.
OLD M. All, all, my son. You will but spare me crutches.*
[* Du ersparst mir die Krucke; meaning that the contents of the letter can but shorten his declining years, and so spare him the necessity of crutches.]
FRANCIS (reads). "Leipsic, May 1. Were I not bound by an inviolable promise to conceal nothing from you, not even the smallest particular, that I am able to collect, respecting your brother's career, never, my dearest friend, should my guiltless pen become an instrument of torture to you. I can gather from a hundred of your letters how tidings such as these must pierce your fraternal heart. It seems to me as though I saw thee, for the sake of this worthless, this detestable" – (OLD M. covers his face). Oh! my father, I am only reading you the mildest passages – "this detestable man, shedding a thousand tears." Alas! mine flowed – ay, gushed in torrents over these pitying cheeks. "I already picture to myself your aged pious father, pale as death." Good Heavens! and so you are, before you have heard anything.
OLD M. Go on! Go on!
FRANCIS. "Pale as death, sinking down on his chair, and cursing the day when his ear was first greeted with the lisping cry of 'Father!' I have not yet been able to discover all, and of the little I do know I dare tell you only a part. Your brother now seems to have filled up the measure of his infamy. I, at least, can imagine nothing beyond what he has already accomplished; but possibly his genius may soar above my conceptions. After having contracted debts to the amount of forty thousand ducats," – a good round sum for pocket-money, father-"and having dishonored the daughter of a rich banker, whose affianced lover, a gallant youth of rank, he mortally wounded in a duel, he yesterday, in the dead of night, took the desperate resolution of absconding from the arm of justice, with seven companions whom he had corrupted to his own vicious courses." Father? for heaven's sake, father! How do you feel?
OLD M. Enough. No more, my son, no more!
FRANCIS. I will spare your feelings. "The injured cry aloud for satisfaction. Warrants have been issued for his apprehension – a price is set on his head – the name of Moor" – No, these unhappy lips shall not be guilty of a father's murder (he tears the letter). Believe it not, my father, believe not a syllable.
OLD M. (weeps bitterly). My name – my unsullied name!
FRANCIS (throws himself on his neck). Infamous! most infamous Charles! Oh, had I not my forebodings, when, even as a boy, he would scamper after the girls, and ramble about over hill and common with ragamuffin boys and all the vilest rabble; when he shunned the very sight of a church as a malefactor shuns a gaol, and would throw the pence he had wrung from your bounty into the hat of the first beggar he met, whilst we at home were edifying ourselves with devout prayers and pious homilies? Had I not my misgivings when he gave himself up to reading the adventures of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, and other benighted heathens, in preference to the history of the penitent Tobias? A hundred times over have I warned you – for my brotherly affection was ever kept in subjection to filial duty – that this forward youth would one day bring sorrow and disgrace on us all. Oh that he bore not the name of Moor! that my heart beat less warmly for him! This sinful affection, which I can not overcome, will one day rise up against me before the judgment-seat of heaven.
OLD M. Oh! my prospects! my golden dreams!
FRANCIS. Ay, well I knew it. Exactly what I always feared. That fiery spirit, you used to say, which is kindling in the boy, and renders him so susceptible to impressions of the beautiful and grand – the ingenuousness which reveals his whole soul in his eyes – the tenderness of feeling which melts him into weeping sympathy at every tale of sorrow – the manly courage which impels him to the summit of giant oaks, and urges him over fosse and palisade and foaming torrents – that youthful thirst of honor – that unconquerable resolution – all those resplendent virtues which in the father's darling gave such promise – would ripen into the warm and sincere friend – the excellent citizen – the hero – the great, the very great man! Now, mark the result, father; the fiery spirit has developed itself – expanded – and behold its precious fruits. Observe this ingenuousness – how nicely it has changed into effrontery; – this tenderness of soul – how it displays itself in dalliance with coquettes, in susceptibility to the blandishments of a courtesan! See this fiery genius, how in six short years it hath burnt out the oil of life, and reduced his body to a living skeleton; so that passing scoffers point at him with a sneer and exclaim – "C'est l'amour qui a fait cela." Behold this bold, enterprising spirit – how it conceives and executes plans, compared to which the deeds of a Cartouche or a Howard sink into insignificance. And presently, when these precious germs of excellence shall ripen into full maturity, what may not be expected from the full development of such a boyhood? Perhaps, father, you may yet live to see him at the head of some gallant band, which assembles in the silent sanctuary of the forest, and kindly relieves the weary traveller of his superfluous burden. Perhaps you may yet have the opportunity, before you go to your own tomb, of making a pilgrimage to the monument which he may erect for himself, somewhere between earth and heaven! Perhaps, – oh, father – father, look out for some other name, or the very peddlers and street boys who have seen the effigy of your worthy son exhibited in the market-place at Leipsic will point at you with the finger of scorn!
OLD M. And thou, too, my Francis, thou too? Oh, my children, how unerringly your shafts are levelled at my heart.
FRANCIS. You see that I too have a spirit; but my spirit bears the sting of a scorpion. And then it was "the dry commonplace, the cold, the wooden Francis," and all the pretty little epithets which the contrast between us suggested to your fatherly affection, when he was sitting on your knee, or playfully patting your cheeks? "He would die, forsooth, within the boundaries of his own domain, moulder away, and soon be forgotten;" while the fame of this universal genius would spread from pole to pole! Ah! the cold, dull, wooden Francis thanks thee, heaven, with uplifted hands, that he bears no resemblance to his brother.
OLD M. Forgive me, my child! Reproach not thy unhappy father, whose fondest hopes have proved visionary. The merciful God who, through Charles, has sent these tears, will, through thee, my Francis, wipe them from my eyes!
FRANCIS. Yes, father, we will wipe them from your eyes. Your Francis will devote – his life to prolong yours. (Taking his hand with affected tenderness.) Your life is the oracle which I will especially consult on every undertaking – the mirror in which I will contemplate everything. No duty so sacred but I am ready to violate it for the preservation of your precious days. You believe me?
OLD M. Great are the duties which devolve on thee, my son – Heaven bless thee for what thou has been, and wilt be to me.
FRANCIS. Now tell me frankly, father. Should you not be a happy man, were you not obliged to call this son your own?
OLD M. In mercy, spare me! When the nurse first placed him in my arms, I held him up to Heaven and exclaimed, "Am I not truly blest?"
FRANCIS. So you said then. Now, have you found it so? You may envy the meanest peasant on your estate in this, that he is not the father of such a son. So long as you call him yours you are wretched. Your misery will grow with his years – it will lay you in your grave.
OLD M. Oh! he has already reduced me to the decrepitude of fourscore.
FRANCIS. Well, then – suppose you were to disown this son.
OLD M. (startled). Francis! Francis! what hast thou said!
FRANCIS. Is not your love for him the source of all your grief? Root out this love, and he concerns you no longer. But for this weak and reprehensible affection he would be dead to you; – as though he had never been born. It is not flesh and blood, it is the heart that makes us sons and fathers! Love him no more, and this monster ceases to be your son, though he were cut out of your flesh. He has till now been the apple of your eye; but if thine eye offend you, says Scripture, pluck it out. It is better to enter heaven with one eye than hell with two! "It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." These are the words of the Bible!
OLD M. Wouldst thou have me curse my son?
FRANCIS. By no means, father. God forbid! But whom do you call your son? Him to whom you have given life, and who in return does his utmost to shorten yours.
OLD M. Oh, it is all too true! it is a judgment upon me. The Lord has chosen him as his instrument.
FRANCIS. See how filially your bosom child behaves. He destroys you by your own excess of paternal sympathy; murders you by means of the very love you bear him – has coiled round a father's heart to crush it. When you are laid beneath the turf he becomes lord of your possessions, and master of his own will. That barrier removed, and the torrent of his profligacy will rush on without control. Imagine yourself in his place. How often he must wish his father under ground – and how often, too, his brother – who so unmercifully impede the free course of his excesses. But call you this a requital of love? Is this filial gratitude for a father's tenderness? to sacrifice ten years of your life to the lewd pleasures of an hour? in one voluptuous moment to stake the honor of an ancestry which has stood unspotted through seven centuries? Do you call this a son? Answer? Do you call this your son?
OLD M. An undutiful son! Alas! but still my child! my child!
FRANCIS. A most amiable and precious child – whose constant study is to get rid of his father. Oh, that you could learn to see clearly! that the film might be removed from your eyes! But your indulgence must confirm him in his vices! your assistance tend to justify them. Doubtless you will avert the curse of Heaven from his head, but on your own, father – on yours – will it fall with twofold vengeance.
OLD M. Just! most just! Mine, mine be all the guilt!
FRANCIS. How many thousands who have drained the voluptuous bowl of pleasure to the dregs have been reclaimed by suffering! And is not the bodily pain which follows every excess a manifest declaration of the divine will! And shall man dare to thwart this by an impious exercise of affection? Shall a father ruin forever the pledge committed to his charge? Consider, father, if you abandon him for a time to the pressure of want will not he be obliged to turn from his wickedness and repent? Otherwise, untaught even in the great school of adversity, he must remain a confirmed reprobate? And then – woe to the father who by a culpable tenderness bath frustrated the ordinances of a higher wisdom! Well, father?
OLD M. I will write to him that I withdraw my protection.
FRANCIS. That would be wise and prudent.
OLD M. That he must never come into my sight again
FRANCIS. 'Twill have a most salutary effect.
OLD M. (tenderly). Until he reforms.
FRANCIS. Right, quite right. But suppose that he comes disguised in the hypocrite's mask, implores your compassion with tears, and wheedles from you a pardon, then quits you again on the morrow, and jests at your weakness in the arms of his harlot. No, my father! He will return of his own accord, when his conscience awakens him to repentance.
OLD M. I will write to him, on the spot, to that effect.
FRANCIS. Stop, father, one word more. Your just indignation might prompt reproaches too severe, words which might break his heart – and then – do you not think that your deigning to write with your own hand might be construed into an act of forgiveness? It would be better, I think, that you should commit the task to me?
OLD M. Do it, my son. Ah! it would, indeed, have broken my heart! Write to him that —
FRANCIS (quickly). That's agreed, then?
OLD M. Say that he has caused me a thousand bitter tears – a thousand sleepless nights – but, oh! do not drive my son to despair!
FRANCIS. Had you not better retire to rest, father? This affects you too strongly.
OLD M. Write to him that a father's heart – But I charge you, drive him not to despair. [Exit in sadness.]
FRANCIS (looking after him with a chuckle). Make thyself easy, old dotard! thou wilt never more press thy darling to thy bosom – there is a gulf between thee and him impassable as heaven is from hell. He was torn from thy arms before even thou couldst have dreamed it possible to decree the separation. Why, what a sorry bungler should I be had I not skill enough to pluck a son from a father's heart; ay, though he were riveted there with hooks of steel! I have drawn around thee a magic circle of curses which he cannot overleap. Good speed to thee, Master Francis. Papa's darling is disposed of – the course is clear. I must carefully pick up all the scraps of paper, for how easily might my handwriting be recognized. (He gathers the fragments of the letter.) And grief will soon make an end of the old gentleman. And as for her – I must tear this Charles from her heart, though half her life come with him.
No small cause have I for being dissatisfied with Dame Nature, and, by my honor, I will have amends! Why did I not crawl the first from my mother's womb? why not the only one? why has she heaped on me this burden of deformity? on me especially? Just as if she had spawned me from her refuse.* Why to me in particular this snub of the Laplander? these negro lips? these Hottentot eyes? On my word, the lady seems to have collected from all the race of mankind whatever was loathsome into a heap, and kneaded the mass into my particular person. Death and destruction! who empowered her to deny to me what she accorded to him? Could a man pay his court to her before he was born? or offend her before he existed? Why went she to work in such a partial spirit?
No! no! I do her injustice – she bestowed inventive faculty, and set us naked and helpless on the shore of this great ocean, the world – let those swim who can – the heavy** may sink. To me she gave naught else, and how to make the best use of my endowment is my present business. Men's natural rights are equal; claim is met by claim, effort by effort, and force by force – right is with the strongest – the limits of our power constitute our laws.
It is true there are certain organized conventions, which men have devised to keep up what is called the social compact. Honor! truly a very convenient coin, which those who know how to pass it may lay out with great advantage.*** Conscience! oh yes, a useful scarecrow to frighten sparrows away from cherry-trees; it is something like a fairly written bill of exchange with which your bankrupt merchant staves off the evil day.